FOODforTHOUGHT: The epigenomics of eating disorders


Food is a necessity of life, as metabolites provide energy and vital building blocks. The intake of nutrients is coordinated by internal and external cues, including developmental or reproductive requirements and the circadian clock. The availability and palatability of food, however, also defines our actions, potentially leading to eating disorders, including compulsive overeating, which represent prevalent human neuropsychiatric disorders with a significant health- and socio-economic impact. Evidence indicates that epigenetic phenomena regulate nutrient metabolism and feeding behaviour, including neural diseases such as compulsive overeating and food addiction. In our multidisciplinary collaboration, we will develop novel transgenic, biochemical and bioinformatic methodologies that allow us for the first time to directly dissect the epigenetic and gene regulatory contribution to eating disorders within the regions and distinct cell-types that are responsible for these conditioned behaviours. Our collaboration tackles 3 paradigms with system-wide aberrations of brain function: starvation, physical actions entrained by dietary reward and compulsive behaviours driven by palatable foods and food restriction. We will obtain molecular correlates of how these paradigms alter gene activity at genome-wide resolution within specific brain regions and cell-types of the model organisms Drosophila and mouse. By modelling gene circuits in these models and validating candidate genes, we are poised to identify conserved regulators of relevance to human health. Our interdisciplinary collaboration brings together the expertise of five complementary labs to provide the first sub-anatomical, genome-wide and dynamic insight on the role of epigenetic phenomena in normal and aberrant brain function, revealing conserved epigenetic gene regulatory mechanisms that are highly relevant to understanding how eating disorders contribute to disease.


Gene targeting in the brain, Stem cells and neural differentiation/cell therapy, Molecular modelling techniques, Molecular and (epi)genetic and "omics" approaches, Behavioural methodologies, Eating Disorders

Call topic

New Methods

Proposed runtime

2013 - 2016

Project team

Andreas Ladurner (Coordinator)
Germany (BMBF)
Rui Costa
Portugal (FCT)
Mara Dierssen
Spain (MINECO)
Giuseppe Testa
Italy (MOH)
Bartosz Wilczynski
Poland (NCBiR)